Monday, November 19, 2007

Terrell Owens: Future Hall of Famer

How many active NFL players can legitimately be said to be future Hall of Famers? Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Marvin Harrison immediately come to mind. Terrell Owens is a player who many fans and media members love to hate but it is indisputable that he has already put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers--and he shows no signs of slowing down even though his 34th birthday is less than a month away.

In Dallas' 28-23 win on Sunday over division rival Washington, Owens produced all four of the Cowboys' scores, tying Bob Hayes' franchise record for TD receptions in one game. Owens finished with eight receptions for 173 yards, his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving. He ranks 10th all-time in career receptions (859), 11th all-time in career receiving yards (12,743) and third all-time in career receiving touchdowns (126; add in his two career rushing TDs and Owens now ranks sixth in total career TDs, just ahead of Jim Brown and Walter Payton). Owens' production this season makes it painfully obvious that he was right all along that former Cowboys' coach Bill Parcells did not involve him enough in the offense. Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones told, "From the coaches on down, all of us wanted to use (Owens) more than he was used last year. Everyone on this staff felt that way. And (receivers coach) Ray Sherman has been a difference-maker with him."

Owens is sometimes knocked for dropping passes but he also has produced a lot of big games, including 29 contests in which he has caught at least two touchdowns; that is tied with Cris Carter for second on the all-time list behind Jerry Rice (44), who ranks first in every meaningful career category for receivers. This season, Owens leads the NFC with both 1028 receiving yards and 18 receptions of at least 20 yards. Like basketball stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Owens cannot be guarded one on one and when he is double-teamed that opens up opportunities for his teammates to make plays.

People act like Owens brought down the Philadelphia Eagles when the reality is they played their best ball when he was there and they have been on the decline since he left (for a multitude of reasons, but lack of a big play wide receiver is a major one). All Owens wanted in Philadelphia was to to be involved in the offense and to renegotiate his contract so that it reflected his value to the team and recognized that he potentially risked his career by playing with a broken ankle during the Super Bowl. I guess the Eagles sure have taught him a lesson for wanting to be a big play receiver and for wanting to be compensated like one.

You cannot mention Owens' name this year without mentioning Randy Moss' name and vice versa. After Owens' four touchdown game on Sunday afternoon, Moss responded with four touchdown receptions in the first half of New England's 56-10 rout of Buffalo on Sunday night. Statistically, Moss has been the best receiver in the NFL this season, with 66 catches (fifth in the NFL) for a league-best 1052 yards and 16 touchdowns, but Owens is right on his heels in all three categories (58 receptions, 1028 yards, 12 touchdowns). I've seen various TV analysts debate which player they'd prefer to have. I would choose Owens, narrowly, for a couple reasons: (1) he is bigger and stronger than Moss, which means that it is tougher to jam him at the line of scrimmage and which also helps him be a better blocker; (2) Owens has been productive for each of the three teams he played for and with a number of different coaches and quarterbacks but Moss seemingly went on hiatus while he was in Oakland. Worse than that, Moss' comments and actions strongly gave the impression that he was not all too concerned about whether or not his team won.

Clearly, Moss has been a model citizen in New England and a perfect fit with quarterback Tom Brady but Owens seems to be tougher, more self motivated, better able to play hurt and more willing to play through adversity. Moss is playing hard now but it is impossible to forget how he almost let his career go down the drain in Oakland. I understand that he was not working with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady out there but I'm talking about effort and attitude more than his statistical production during those years. Belichick obviously did his homework and found out that Moss would indeed fit in with the "Patriot way" but Owens has been consistently productive for playoff teams in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas.

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